Friday, April 29, 2011

Late Posting of Holy Thursday Meditation

With this Mass of the Last Supper, we enter into the holiest time of the liturgical year: the Sacred Triduum of the Passion, Death, Burial, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The events of the Passion, Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus constitute what we call the “Paschal Mystery”. Like the crossing by the Israelites from slavery to freedom through the Red Sea, so did Christ cross from this world to the Father through the sea of suffering and death which he endured. This is what Sacred Scriptures constantly refer to as the Hour of Jesus: “Before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.” The Paschal Mystery is opened by the Last Supper. Why the Last Supper? Well, it is because the Last Supper was the moment when our Lord was obviously free to do what he did. Hours before the Kiss of Judas, hours before he was chained by the temple guards, hours before he was violently tortured by evil men, Jesus ate the Passover supper with his disciples. Long before he was surrounded by enemies, he was surrounded by friends – his disciples. Long before his hands were restrained by heavy chains, he took bread and wine. Long before his body was lacerated by thorns, whips, and nails, he said: This is my body which will be given up for you. Long before his blood flowed from his gaping wounds, he said: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for the many, so that sins may be forgiven. It would be hard to believe that Jesus freely laid down his life when we see him surrounded, chained, and tortured by his enemies. That is why before he was physically restrained, he tells us that his Body is given up for us and his Blood is the Blood of the New Covenant which is shed for the forgiveness of our sins. By this, he makes it clear to us that his passion is not simply a violent story of torture and inhumanity. More than this, his passion is a sacrifice – an act of homage, an act of worship which Christ offers his Father. It is a priestly act with which Jesus mediates between God and humanity. In this priestly act, he is able to reconcile us with the Father. He brings about the forgiveness of our sins. Thus, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) The Eucharist, which the Lord instituted at the Last Supper, is essentially the Death of the Lord not only being remembered and proclaimed but also made present and accessible to those who approach it with faith.

Christ makes this great and saving mystery accessible to us by humbling himself. He who is God humbled himself and assumed our human nature. He further humbled himself by accepting death on the Cross. And as if it were not enough, he humbled himself even further – he made himself lower than man, and even lower than the animals: he became food and drink. He takes bread and makes it his Body. He takes wine and makes it his Blood. He takes off his outer garment to put on one of lower kind. He subjects his Body and Blood, his Soul and his Divinity to the appearance of Bread and Wine. He did this because he was “fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” He knew he had so much power that he used it – not to exalt himself but to humble himself: he contained his divinity in his humanity and then contained both his divinity and humanity into bread and wine. He had come from God and he was returning to God. He came from on high and was about to ascend to that height of heights. But before doing this, he uses his power to go to the depths – he goes to the depths of suffering and death; he goes to the depths of hell. In his humility he continues to be who he always is: our Lord and Master. In his humanity he continues to be God. In the Eucharistic species, he continues to be God and Man. Thus, no matter how humble the appearances may be, we bend our knees and bow our heads before this Holy Sacrament because faith makes us see clearly what is apparently hidden from mortal eyes. Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui:…praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.

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